The Alaska State Library will exhibit artwork from the book Mary’s Wild Winter Feast by Hannah Lindoff. Come feast your eyes on a selection of the illustrations, a collaboration between Tlingit collage artist Clarissa Rizal and digital artist Nobu Koch. They feature Mary’s adventures hunting, fishing, and foraging with her family in southeast Alaska. This exhibit is made possible by the University of Alaska Press and will be on display through March 27. First Friday opening reception will be on February 6 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Alaska State Library on the 8th floor of the State Office Building. For more information, contact Claire Imamura at (907) 465-2458or firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> .
Clarissa and her children, Ursala, Lily and Kahlil – July 2011
A couple of weeks ago, one of my apprentices asked me if I would write a bio of myself that explained when I began to do my art and why. She said she had to choose someone who had influenced her life to become an artist; she choose me. This was an assignment she needed to present at her art class. My initial response was “Gee, I inspired her to become an artist? But I don’t want to write about me, it is so boring to go back that far and talk about who, what where when and why…” However, I gave her my word that I would do this for her that night. So, I “set the stage” with low lighting and a cup of tea; I do this whenever I have to write about my personal life to help me focus with very little struggle – then with very little editing, the words just flowed from my head down through to the keyboard onto the computer screen. Here’s what came…
19 January 2015
Sitting in the direct heat of the fake firelight of the electric Amish heater in my studio, always bundled in my sheepskin coat, sheepskin boots and hat because the heating device is not large enough to heat this one room where I work and sleep, I am never quite warm in Winter, though it’s better than being outside right now with 0 degree starlit snow. I reflect upon my life as an artist and wonder where it all started and if living the life of a full-time artist, especially now in a place without running water, without sewer, and without sufficient heat, was and continues to be, worth it.
No matter what age, for the past 59 years, I’ve always been a child of creativity, with a drive that is endless. I exist on 6 hours sleep a night; from the time my eyes are awakened by the early dawn until I suddenly stagger to my bed 18 hours later; like I am going-going-going, then gone! It’s only in the past couple of years that I realized that not everyone is like this; where have I been?
38 years ago today, my first child Kahlil was born, named after Kahlil Gibran who wrote many inspiring books including The Prophet, Spirits Rebellious, and my favorite The Broken Wings. Spiritually-inclined at a very young age, anything written about Christ had to be read; any paintings, prints and photos of Jesus had to be studied, so natural it was to read all of Gibran’s works when I was a young adult. And even though in the western way of living having a child at 20 was considered young, it was natural for me to think it normal because our Tlingit culture had the wisdom to know children are a gift of God.
My parents guided me into the way they were conditioned to get a “real job” to secure a pension plan to retire in 40 years. This worked for a little while. From the age of 14 to 20 I had real jobs working as a librarian assistant, a home-health aid for the elderly, a clerk typist for the Governor and for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Contracting, until of course Kahlil was born. Being a new mother was challenging; I was not a natural-born mother because I was such a tom-boy and it was next to impossible to stay indoors day in and day out while the baby napped, I had to keep up with the diaper changes and laundry, and he had to be nursed every 2 hours 24-7! Holy cow!
To keep my sanity I turned to gardening; it got me outdoors yet close to home! I turned to drawing, crocheting and sewing. While he took his naps, and directly after putting the entire household to bed each night, I’d stay awake ‘till at least midnight, creating; it was my therapy! During the raising of my three children, I made a living over the next decades in a variety of ways: besides designing and making Tlingit ceremonial regalia in button blanket, Chilkat and Ravenstail weavings, I was an entrepreneur before I knew what that meant. I made hats, I sewed custom-made clothing, created costumes for local theatre companies, owned a landscape gardening company, and was co-owner of an online newspaper. In the 70s and early 80s, I took up learning our traditional arts from some of the best artists of their time: carving, regalia-making, traditional song and dance, metal-smithing, basketry, Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving. Just before my children were grown up and gone I had created a name for myself as one of the few, if not the only, Tlingit women who has been a full-time artist working in all of the above mediums for nearly 40 years, all in the name of keeping my sanity and being a stay-at-home-self-employed-mother because I did what my mother recommended I do: stay home with my children.
In a few years I will be 65; do I see myself retiring soon? No way. I have no pension plan; I have no savings; and I surely do not have an inheritance. I cannot afford to retire. And what would I retire to!? Would I retire to taking vacations? What for?…vacations are boring; I don’t want to relax – relaxing is a lot of work! Would I retire to volunteering at something? I been there done that volunteering all my life with the house concerts I used to produce in my own home; with the children’s theatre I used to co-produce; with the art shows and classes I used to teach, just to name a few. Would I retire to what most people retire to? Watching TV from the couch. What for? Is that really fun, is it productive, is it creative, does it do anyone any good? The only results I see from watching TV is weight gain—too much potato chips!
Would I retire to what some of us retire to? Art and music.
Hello? I am already there; I have been creating art and playing music all my adult life. Does this mean I’ve been retired all my life? Hmmm…an interesting perspective.
It looks like I will continue doing what I have been doing for almost 40 years. Why change now? I’m in the groove.
My children now have families of their own. Each of my children and their spouses are self-employed artists. I have watched them struggle with making ends meet like the way their father and I made ends meet never knowing where our next paycheck would come from and if next month’s bills would get paid. I watch them live like I have, not afford brand new cars, not take any vacations, not have the latest styles of clothing, all the while living with tension about the ability to keep a roof over their heads, mouths fed, and clothing clean. However, there’s a sense of pride and awe that I feel when I see the fact that they stay at home with their children, making wholesome meals from scratch, tending to a flourishing garden, doing their “art” and their little kids “working” right alongside them: happy. These are values I did not realize were taught to them by my own example, someone who has passionate creativity, a drive that has always been driven, at the edge.
Kahlil is a professional film-maker/director who also teaches film a couple of days a week at the Institute of American Indian Arts; his wife Miki is a counselor at the Santa Fe Arts Academy; their 7-year-old Violet enjoys chess tournaments, sewing, ice-skating, gymnastics and basketball. Lily is an award-winning, professional storyteller/actress and also a Ravenstail/Chilkat weaver and teacher; her husband Ishmael is also a professional storyteller/actor, excellent writer who recently published his first book of poetry. They have four children who are being home-schooled. Ursala is an oil painter, block-print maker, graphic artist/web designer, and is president of a local Charter school she is starting; her husband Chris is a lead singer/songwriter in his band, a sculptor and a house painter. Their two daughters are obviously following their footsteps! My children and grandchildren live fully.
To my best of my ability, I live a life of integrity. I keep watch of what I do to see what I believe. My offspring and my work is love made visible. I follow my heart because my heart follows the source of creativity that inspires me and continues to drive me. I am old enough to look back upon my life and enjoy it a second time around. All my relations, my parents, my children and their children are proof of the legacy that I co-created and will leave. And when I leave, my conscious will be clear and free, knowing all that I loved and lived, was worth it.
Hand-painted mini-coops in Chilkat yellow and Indian red! by Clarissa Rizal
Let’s go for a quick road-trip in one of these “Chilkat Mobiles” zipping through the Redwood Forests and out across Canyonlands and Arches National Monuments sliding into Sedona across the Mohave dessert and up towards the Rocky Mountains! Yep, zippidity do dah at your fingertips in the miniatures of miniatures!
Ishmael and Lily Hope with their 4 children Elizabeth, Mary, Eleanor, Louis and Santa! – December 2014
Another fortunate child of mine who snuck in like her brother and sister when their mother wasn’t looking! Cheers to you for holding up with 4 children, and for making plans to go for your Masters Degree in Education, and starting the online weaving source called the Northwest Coast Weavers Supply, all this while helping to support Ishmael and his career as a writer and culture-bearer! You could sound like your mother, alas, you are your own strong-willed person — keep it up my dear while continuing to lovingly care for yourself! Lots of big hugs and kisses, my Nina!
Donna Beaver Pizzarelli, Al Pizzarelli, and Clarissa Rizal — street bench near Basin Road, Juneau, Alaska
For whatever reasons, my blog crashed on November 18, 2014. I didn’t know about it until three weeks later when I received a call from a total stranger out of Minnesota who was roaming my website and could not pull up my blog and thought he’d better bring it to my attention — like how cool is that!? How many people would go through the trouble?
In between her full-time job working for the USGS and doing her own creative works especially in Haiku poetry, and assisting her husband’s creative endeavors, Donna worked hard getting my blog up and running again, finalized today! YAY!
Check out Donna and Al’s poetry: www.haikuchronicles.com
Back side of my 1991 Toyota Corolla — Clarissa calls it her “Chilkat Mobile” — license plate “CNH 794″ She considers these letters and numbers “good…!”
My “Chilkat Mobile” is originally from Juneau, Alaska. In December I put the car on the ferry for a 3-day sail to the port of Bellingham, Washington State. From Bellingham, I drove down to the mountains above Los Angelos, then across to Scottsdale and up to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I drove through all kinds of storms, wind, rain, sleet, snow and finally sunshine! This car can make it up the infamous Wolf Creek Pass to Denver no problem. Though remember because it is a 4-cylinder, you have to drive in 2nd gear up the mountain passes.
Front of Clarissa’s “Chilkat Mobile”
“Chilkat” was owned by an elderly blonde woman who is now 92. 22 years ago, she and her husband bought two of these cars, a his and her pair: one for her, one for him. The cars were originally red, but they had both custom painted yellow. A little over a year ago, they both went into an elder-care home and so they sold both of their beloved machines. They took VERY GOOD CARE of these cars; in fact, they each had their own garage built especially for them; no kidding! Except for a few tiny nicks here and there from tiny rocks on the drive down here, the body is straight, no dents and no rust anywhere except for a small strip across the bottom part of the window on the back hatch door; I remedied that situation by placing yellow duck tape (the exact color of the car!) across the line of rust.
I bought the “her” car. Peggy was retired when she bought the car and had no children or grand-children, she mainly used the car to go do errands and such in the remote town of Juneau which has about 70 total miles of road as the town is land-locked. The car most likely did not ever go more than 60 miles an hour, if that, until of course, I drove it on the freeways from Bellingham — the car hums at 75 no problem with a load. When I drove down from Bellingham, I had the car packed with two suitcases, my paintings and prints and weaving looms. It probably hasn’t had any kind of load like that before.
On the car deck of the “MV Malaspina” ferry from Juneau, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington, then the long drive down to Colorado…!
Both cars were well maintained partially due to the fact that the husband was a boat and car mechanic as well as an inventor and both he and his wife were meticulous about everything they owned. I knew them personally. I grew up with them. They talked me into buying this car because they wanted me to have it because they knew I liked older cars and they knew I took care of my things. They also knew I needed a car to teach my classes up in Yukon Territory! For a 22-year old car, the interior is clean, barely worn anywhere because the car was mainly used by one person, so the grey upholstery is in great shape, no tears, no stains, no worn spots – there is only one worn spot on the carpet. I have my own maintenance records for a little over a year I’ve owned it since, I’ve had the oil changed three times; totally serviced and new rear brakes before I jumped the ferry with the car. I haven’t had to do anything major. It handles snow real well, hugs the road like a roadster; it’s a sweet thing!
As you can tell, I am proud of my “Chilkat Mobile”. I would not have sold it if it weren’t my need for a travel van. I need something larger because I am an artist who travels to a variety of shows “west of the Mississippi!” I need to carry all my art plus the display units. After at least 10 inquiries from prospective buyers from around the country in just a couple of days on the Craigslist market, “Chilkat” is now living in Taos, New Mexico with her new owner. I wish her a longer and more prosperous life; she served me well and in turn I wish her the best!
The Juneau School District has concluded our investigation into allegations that on or about May 30-31 of this year a group of incoming senior boys hazed/initiated a group of incoming freshmen boys by paddling them multiple times.
These events were first brought to our attention in early June. At that time the district began an initial investigation, which, due to an active police investigation and summer vacation, was put on hold. When we were informed that the police had concluded their investigation we resumed our efforts.